The heroes of Olympus the house of hades
As long as we're together…
They were still together, but for how long, Percy didn't know.
Percy's free hand grappled at the air, while his other hand clung to Annabeth's sweaty, pale hand, as the world around him got darker and darker, and the light above them, marking his friend's silhouettes got smaller until it was only a tiny pin point, and then it was gone.
A feeling of freefall was not a new to him. But the feeling of freefalling into Tartarus, the endless cesspool of evil, was entirely new. Percy wasn't one of those daredevils that went sky diving into the Underworld on his downtime. He'd much rather spend his time, well, anywhere else.
Gravity managed to pulled Percy down farther than Annabeth, so that he was underneath her. While he was gasping and coughing and yelping, she was abnormally quiet. Percy couldn't see her face anymore, which frightened him.
No, no, no… this wasn't the happy ending Percy wanted.
Percy's mouth formed words, some not very appropriate, some unintelligible. His head was swimming with nausea, and the feeling that his limbs were being ripped apart was only a dull throb. Did he still have limbs? He'd hit so many things that he wouldn't be surprised if his legs were gone.
Of piece of debris hit him in the arm, the one that was holding onto Annabeth. His grip slackened.
NO! He yelled at himself. You will not lose her again.
Before Percy could let go, he yanked her against his own body. He wrapped his arms around her back and over her shoulders in a tight embrace that wouldn't let up. He put his hand on the back of her skull and pushed it closer to his chest to protect her from the flying wreckage and their impending impact.
Their impending impact… when were they ever going to reach the bottom?
It seemed as if they'd been falling for an eternity when the light started to shine. Not the kind of light that the sun produces, but a sinister glow that only showed the shadows of faces.
Percy could see Annabeth's blood and dust coated blonde hair. Her face was covered in dirt and scratches, and her eyes were closed.
The clog of terror seemed to vanish from his throat with this sudden minimal burst of light eradicating from the walls, and Percy found himself able to talk better.
He bent his head down and out his lips against Annabeth's ear. "Please say something," he whispered, but he wasn't even sure that she could hear him. He couldn't hear himself with all of the commotion going on.
"Please, Annabeth," he pleaded. "Please be alive."
And her head twitched up and down, not involuntarily. She had nodded, which meant she was conscious. Just knowing that made Percy feel loads better.
Percy would do anything for Annabeth. They were stuck like glue. After the abduction by Her Majesty of Annoyance, the goddess Hera (or Juno, depending on who you were) Percy and Annabeth had been separated from each other for sixth months.
Which, to Percy, had been sixth months WAY too long.
Only a few days ago had they been reunited on one of the best days of Percy's life. But that best day of his life hadn't lasted too long, because almost right after the incident, his friend Leo had been possessed by an eidolon. The eidolon had caused Leo to shoot at the Romans, which had started World War III for the Greeks and Romans.
Confusing? Welcome to the life of a demigod.
For the past few days, they had journeyed across the United States, over the Atlantic Ocean, through the Mediterranean, all the way to Rome, on a Greek trireme called the Argo II.
Of course, once they had reached Rome, they'd been split up. Percy had gone with Jason and Piper to a place Piper had seen on her dagger (long story), then to get save their friend Nico by getting rid of a giant named Ephialtes and his brother, the ballerina named Otis (longer story).
Meanwhile, Leo, Frank, and Hazel had gone to try and pinpoint Nico's location without knowing that the others were going to end up finding him. Long story short, Frank and Hazel had been knocked out by a bunch of monsters who planned on using them to help Gaea rise, and Leo had saved them by cracking open a fortune cookie that gave him a code to go all commando on them with weapons made by Archimedes.
And in the midst of that, Annabeth had been kidnapped by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, and then tortured, shocked, horrified, and maimed by Arachne, the mother of spiders. But it'd been Annabeth's quest to follow the Mark of Athena and find the Athena Parthenos, which she did, all with a broken ankle.
Percy could've never been a prouder boyfriend.
So, finally, Percy had found Annabeth with the ground falling apart all around them, into the bottomless pit of evil. Of course, with just his luck, there had still been spider silk wrapped around Annabeth's broken ankle.
Too late had he realized what this had meant. The spider silk yanked Annabeth, who'd had with no strength left, and she had gone over the edge. Percy had grabbed her arm, also being pulled over. He'd latched onto a ledge.
As he continued to fall, the final scenes replayed in his mind.
Nico, trying his best to save them, but they'd been too far down.
Percy making Nico promise to meet them at the Doors of Death.
And, sadly, Annabeth, just telling him to let her go, her voice so full of despair that it had broken Percy's heart.
"Never," he'd told her. He would never let go of her. If she went down, he was going down with her. "We're staying together," he'd promised.
"As long as we're together," she'd told him, and he'd let go of the ledge.
And Percy didn't regret his decision.
So as their bodies flopped uselessly through the air, Percy knew that there was no way any of his powers would come in handy. A salty spring or a cursing horse wouldn't help them much where they were going.
Percy felt a continuous tug on him, and it wasn't gravity. Tartarus was sucking them down. Percy was glad that his friends were okay, and he hoped to Poseidon that they hadn't tried to follow them down there.
If Nico had been able to find the Doors of Death, than hopefully Percy and Annabeth would be able to too.
A chuck of asphalt hit Percy's head. Hard.
Black and green spots appeared in his vision and a bunch of air leaked from his lungs. He was vaguely aware of his slipping grip on Annabeth, and then her arms wrapping themselves around his neck. Her head pressed itself in the crook of his neck.
Percy tried to ignore the pain, which was pretty hard. This was one of those moments that he wished that he still had the curse of Achilles.
When the pain faded a small bit, Percy blinked rapidly, trying to get the spots out of his eyes. He faintly heard someone muttering, "Percy, Percy…" Annabeth.
Something huge knocked into them both, and Percy had the feeling that it'd been a car. It knocked the sharply the right (or was it the left?) and threw them against the wall of sharp stone.
Everything seemed to be in slow motion, Percy could see the black stone getting closer, and Percy turned his body so it shielded Annabeth, and took the full force of the hit.
A voice cackled sleepily. You will not be able to escape this time, Percy Jackson. Maybe you should have let Annabeth go. But that doesn't matter no. You're both doomed, and your friends will perish before they ever reach the House of Hades.
Percy had blood in his mouth. Over the roar of wind in his ears, he screamed at the voice of Gaea. "We WILL close the Doors of Death. You have no idea what you're facing!"
Oh, really, little Son of Poseidon. Even the Gods of Olympus haven't been able to find me rising for the last 2,000 years. I am much stronger than you'll ever be.
And just to prove that, another flying chuck of road hit Percy hard, and sent them spiraling down faster.
With one last desperate thought, Save her, Percy blacked out.
It was national 'Hate on Nico' week, wasn't it?
In the last week or two (Nico had lost track of time), he'd been tortured and deprived of most human needs, including oxygen. The giants had treated him like a science project, keeping him locked in a jar and studying as if he were a fascinating creature of some source.
But Nico had actually realized how stupid his idea had been before everything had gone completely wrong. He'd realized that when the voices had begun to invade his mind as he stood on the edge of the pit. The pit to Tartarus. They'd called for help and said things that had confused him.
"Save me," they'd hissed. "It's up to you, Ghost King. Only you can do it. You know the secrets to endless death." Endless death? He'd thought. Isn't that up to Thanatos?
And once he'd gotten too close, it had sucked him in.
Not like with a cord or anything. It was more like a vacuum, taking everything within a certain range into its tight grip, cutting him up and swirling him around until up and down had no meaning. Start and end were the same thing.
One choice. If he'd just ignored the voices, his entire life wouldn't have blown back into his face.
It honest to gods hurt to even think about his time in Tartarus. He was the first demigod to ever make it out of there alive, and that was only because a rogue earth goddess and a few giants and a couple thousand monsters had taken advantage of him when he was at his weakest.
And by weakest, it was both physically and mentally. Tartarus had nearly drove Nico insane. It was no place fit for living, or the living for that matter.
Once he'd been put in the glass jar, his mind had been at its weakest. In the jar, he had relived the entire experience a hundred time, each worse than the last.
And now, Percy and Annabeth were stuck down there too. And this was his entire fault.
He should've done more to try and save them. Instead, he'd practically just stood there and watched them fall to their possible deaths.
On the bright side, his senses told him that they weren't dead, which meant that they'd survived the fall. Or that they were still falling. Or maybe, just maybe, they'd been abducted by a few Pegasus and had flown away to Australia.
Yeah, that seemed like a good option.
And now, everyone blamed themselves, and Piper was using her charmspeak to calm them down, though she seemed a bit crazed herself. He had never met Piper or Leo, and he didn't know what to think of them. Piper, of course, was gorgeous, but Nico knew no girl like that would ever date him, especially since she was dating Jason, Mr. Perfect. He might as well tape the 'Forever Alone' head onto his chest to warn everyone.
And Leo freaked him out. Any guy who could shoot fire out of his fingertips was definitely crazy. He had that wild look in his eyes like he might burst at any moment. Someone needed to remove sugar of all kinds from his diet at start feeding him grain or something.
Jason had sparks coming off of his body. Frank looked like he wanted to turn into a pigeon and fly away. Hazel was fiddling with a ruby the size of her hand. Leo was staring at his feet, a small flame ignited in his palm. Piper was pacing the deck, worry written all over her face. She was muttering things to herself, stuff like, "It's okay," or, "They can do this."
Everyone felt like it was his or her fault. Nico knew Hazel was thinking the same thing he was. If they'd just been a little quicker, more proactive and observant, their friends would still be there. Frank and Jason felt suckish because they hadn't flown down there to help them. Even though Piper wouldn't have been able to do anything, she was still grieving. And Leo was beating himself up for being then one who'd opened up the fortune cookie (Nico was still waiting for someone to fully explain that) and sacrificed Percy and Annabeth, if that was what had really happened.
Since everyone else seemed distracted and terrified, Nico put on his big boy pants and said, "Okay guys, we can't just sit here and do nothing. We need to make plans on what to do now."
Leo looked up at him. "Dude, we're in the air on the route to Greece. Festus can take care of us. Why should we get up? There aren't any monsters attacking."
"Well, if Percy and Annabeth were here-"
"Please," barked Frank suddenly, standing up. "Don't bring Percy and Annabeth into this. They're gone right now, and it's our fault, no matter what anyone else says." He stormed away, and not even Hazel bothered to go after him. Nico watched as he stomped down the stairs like an angry Pooh Bear.
It was totally out of character. Nico had never seen Frank that mad. Frank wasn't even the kind of person that usually got mad. Most of the time, Frank kept his anger in.
"Don't take it personally," Piper said. "We all feel horrible about Percy and Annabeth, and we all realize that they're gone for now. But we are on this quest to save them, right?"
"Right," agreed Jason, taking Piper's hand. "Let's just not bring this up. We will find them at the Doors of Death, and we will save them." Nico could tell Jason was trying to keep it together himself.
"Okay," Nico sighed, flopping to the floor of the deck. He laid down on his back and stretched his arms over his head. So much for being the fearless leader. They all needed more time for this situation to sink in.
And for the first time, Nico really did allow it to sink in. Percy and Annabeth were gone. His two friends, the ones that had saved his life on multiple occasions and helped him figure out his true identity, just thrown away as a sacrifice. It was sick.
Nico heard the sound of breaking glass from below deck, followed by, "Yeah, you see that? You ain't got NOTHING on me!" That was definitely the voice of their crazy chaperone, the satyr Gleeson Hedge.
Nico glanced at the faces of the other demigods. They seemed oblivious to what had happened. All except for Jason, who had perked up a bit and cocked his head to one side. He raised an eyebrow at Nico. "You want me to check on him?"
"No, I can do it," Nico said, standing up again. He went down to the cabins and scanned each one. Nico ended up finding Coach Hedge in his own room, baseball bat in one hand. He was glaring at the broken porthole window, the shards of it at his hooves.
"Do you want to tell me what the scary window did to you?" Nico asked sarcastically.
The five foot satyr walked straight up to Nico. Everyone else pretty much towered over Coach, but Nico was only five foot four inches. He was taller, but not by much. He poked his finger in Nico's face. "Don't cross me, boy."
"Look, I understand if you're angry, but there's no reason to be breaking windows."
"Maybe I wanted fresh air," he retorted stubbornly, jutting up his chin and whacking a pillow off the bed.
"Then you could've opened it," Nico said slowly, using big hand gestures.
"Hey, I'm just upset. Normal people would be," shot Coach Hedge, swinging his bat back and forth. Nico backed up. "But maybe you don't even have any emotions. You children of Hades are weird."
"Of course I'm upset," growled Nico, throwing his hands up in exasperation. "They were my friends. But sitting around, vandalizing the ship is not going to help us at all. We need to work at getting somewhere, or they're going to die."
Coach Hedge glared at him for another minute, then huffed loudly and pushed past him and out of the room, vanishing from his sight. Nico sighed and pivoted on his heel and also exited the room.
When Nico returned to the deck, the only one who was still up there was Hazel. She was gazing out at the see below them, churning restlessly like Percy would be. Nico knew that if they were on the ground, diamonds would be sprouting around her feet.
Nico hadn't had the chance to talk to her yet. Truth be told, even after knowing Hazel for almost a year, he still wanted to believe that she was Bianca, that his real, biological sister had never died. Her death had led to resentment to gods and demigods, and most of all, Percy. For a while, he'd blamed everyone for her death and had strived for a way to bring her back to life.
Looking back on that moment, Nico felt stupid. He should've known that there was no way to bring the dead back to life.
But now, there was. And, as proof, there was Hazel.
Sadly, all of his hope for that alternative was gone, because Bianca was gone now too. She was off to be reborn, and Nico was never going to see her again.
"Hey," he said, leaning over the ledge next to her.
"Hey," she answered without looking at him.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked, trying to make a conversation.
"What do you think?" she whispered. Nico opened his mouth to reply, but she held up a hand to stop him. "That was rhetorical, Nico. I'm obviously disturbed about Percy and Annabeth. Everyone here is, except for you."
Nico groaned, and Hazel looked at him. "What is it?"
"First of all, 'disturbed' is a weird way to put this situation. But don't take how I'm acting in the wrong manner. I've known Percy and Annabeth longer than anyone else here. They are two of my best friends… my only friends. If I could go back to that time and put me in their place, I'd do it."
"Don't say that," she told him sternly, tears coming into her eyes. "Percy and Annabeth are gone. How do you think I would feel if you…" She didn't have finish.
"Hazel, I don't plan on leaving you or the others anytime soon."
"I'm sure you thought the same thing before you got trapped in Tartarus."
Nico wasn't sure how to respond, because she was right. He changed the subject back to what it had previously been. "I wasn't lying when I said that Percy was the most powerful demigod I know. Anything that comes in his way should be scared out of its mind. I know I am sometimes. And when Percy and Annabeth are together, it's pretty scary. They're as great fighting partners as they are a couple. They'll be fine, there's no doubt about it."
"How can you say that?" asked Hazel miserably, wiping away her tears.
"Because I know them. They can do this. I know it."
"But what if you're wrong?" she mumbled. "I want to be optimistic, but what if something happens? What if Annabeth can't walk? What if they get hurt from the fall? Nico, you've been to Tartarus. What is going to happen to them?"
And it wasn't the first time that Nico didn't have an answer to any of those.
The impact hurt worse than her broken ankle.
Up until that moment, Annabeth had had her arms locked around her boyfriend Percy's neck. The pain in her ankle was unrelenting as debris bumped into it and they were thrown from one side of the pit to the other. Annabeth was looking at Percy's chest with tunnel vision. Her peripheral vision was completely back, and the only she could see was Percy.
Annabeth felt safe in the arms of her boyfriend, which was saying a lot, since Percy was usually the one to make something blow up or catch on fire.
After the fall had begun, Annabeth had blacked out immediately from nausea and the tenderness of tenderness of her wound. She hadn't been sure how much time had passed until she had woken up again to the sound of Percy's voice.
His words had been muffled and unclear, and Annabeth had been sure that if opened her mouth, the things that would come out would had definitely not been words. So she had nodded her head the best of her ability and stayed still.
It had been hard. Her entire body was screaming, but her mind was being logical. Screaming in a situation like that would not have been the good thing to do.
Annabeth remembered when Percy got hit with the asphalt. She could hear the crack when it happened. Knowing that he might let go at any second, Annabeth'd wrapped her arms around Percy. She couldn't afford to lose him after all they'd been through. Some stupid spider wasn't going to change that.
And then, Annabeth had heard the bone-chilling voice of Gaea, taunting Percy. Annabeth wanted to grab her knife and hunt down the earth goddess, but she'd remembered that her backpack, laptop, and bronze knife were gone, possibly forever.
Once Percy had been knocked out cold, Annabeth had been complete unsure of what to do. She hadn't been ready for a situation like this. If she were Jason or Frank, she could've flown to safety, but she wasn't, so wishing wasn't an option.
As they continued to fall, Annabeth felt that tug on her ankle stop, and a huge amount of pain just ceased. She let out a sigh of relief against Percy's chest, and tears of joy crept into her eyes. She blinked them away quickly, knowing that she would need to be able to see.
Then her heart stopped beating when she realized what was going to happen.
The only reason the pull on her leg had stopped was because the thing hold it down had stopped falling. Annabeth and Percy were the only things falling now, which meant that their impact was going to come pretty soon. How was she supposed to prepare for it?
Annabeth remembered something she'd read one time. A guy had been blown a fourth of a mile from his house because of a tornado, and since he'd been knocked out, he hadn't even broken a bone when he landed.
She tried to relax all of her muscles. She loosened the grip she had on Percy's neck, making a bit of space between them. Now that Percy was unconscious, maybe he'd be okay when he landed. His muscles wouldn't be trying to tighten and brace for the impact, and he would go with the flow.
A golden light of the pit shined brighter, kind of like that ghostly twilight before nightfall, when all of the shadows coat your face but illuminate it at the same time. They tumbled through the air flipping and turning, and then, Annabeth's head snapped to the left, and she saw the ground.
It was coming at her a little too fast.
She had seconds. She let all of her limbs loose, and then her back hit the ground.
Instantly, she and Percy were separated as she shrieked in agony. She bounced straight back up into the air, probably twenty feet up. A car slammed into her side, and her screams were cut short as she chocked on her own saliva.
Her back slammed into the ground again, and something cracked. She whimpered as she continued rolling down a hill. The sounds of crashing cement and bit a buildings and car invaded her ears, screeching loudly.
She couldn't even see Percy. She could barely see what was around her. She was sure that she had blood in her eyes. Her hands were cut up from trying to stop herself, and from thorns that scattered the ground. She wondered briefly why thorns would be woven into the ground, but that thought disappeared when she hit against something hard.
The pain was blinding. She couldn't even feel her ankle anymore, which maybe was a good thing. Maybe the ambrosia from earlier was finally mending the bone. She coughed up and gravel that had gotten into her lungs, but stopped short, so it sounded like she'd chocked. There was a pain near her lungs that was excruciating.
Her plan hadn't worked whatsoever. Now, she could only hope that Percy wasn't in the same situation.
Come on, Annabeth, she told herself. Toughen up.
She grabbed at something behind her, and it felt like a car door. Very slowly, Annabeth pulled herself up to her good foot. Her splint had fallen apart during her crash landing, so she propped her foot up behind her.
She twisted to look at what was inside the crushed car, but she screamed and grabbed onto her side. It hurt so much.
Annabeth felt something warm and sticky where her fingers were and something really hard too. She brought them up to her face. They were a deep red. She was bleeding severely.
She glanced down at her side. A huge gash started at her chest and ended at her hip, and blood was just oozing out of it. She squinted in the dim light to see what was hard, and she saw something vaguely white but coated in blood sticking out of her skin a little bit.
It was one of her ribs. She'd fractured her rib, and it had popped out of place. It was protruding slightly from her skin.
Annabeth couldn't help it. She threw up next to the car. The wound was nasty and terrible, one of the worst she ever had. So now, not only had she broke her ankle, but her ribs were bruised, and one of them was broken.
"Okay, Annabeth," she hissed to herself. "What do I do now?" Every bit of information she'd gotten learning First Aid at camp seemed to be gone. She wanted to collapse on the ground and wait for someone to help her, but she didn't even know if Percy was awake.
What if he was dead?
"Nope!" She wouldn't believe that until she saw it. She looked inside the car for anything she could salvage. The smell of gasoline was rich. The keys were still in the ignition, so after a few failed attempts, she managed to snatch them out. There was also a Tinker Bell seat covered that was ripped up, but she yanked that out too. Perhaps later, she would check the car more for supplies, maybe a first aid kit, but now, she needed to sit.
She slid against the car door slowly until she reached the ground. She looked at the set of keys. They could be a weapon. Or… a knife.
She looked at her bad ankle again. The long string of silk was still attached to her ankle, even after the hard crash. She picked it up and cut began to cut it with the keys. It was stronger than she'd realized. It took almost five minutes, but she managed to cut it off.
Next she looked at the seat cover. It was stretchy and thin. Annabeth put it around her mid section twice, and yanked really hard. She bit her lip so hard that there was blood drawn. Then she tied it off, hoping that he makeshift bandage would work well enough to stop the blood flow a bit.
Annabeth's head felt fuzzy, and she had to keep blinking to see right. A nap suddenly felt like a really good idea.
"Where are you, daughter of Athena?" screeched a voice, like a thousand clicking insects.
Annabeth gulped. Apparently Arachne had survived the fall.
"You will not outsmart me this time," she hissed. Annabeth could hear the clanging of metal and the sounds of grass rustling. She knew that the Mother Spider was close.
What could Annabeth do? Fight with keys? That wouldn't get her that far. Arachne wouldn't be outsmarted again. Annabeth didn't have any tricks up her sleeve. She could barely think as it was. Annabeth got back to her feet as fast as she could. There wasn't any place for her to really hide. She saw a few cars here and there, and some huge chunks of buildings, but she wouldn't be able to get there in time.
Annabeth decided to climb into the car. She barely fit. The ceiling was crush down so much that the car was pretty much a pancake, but at least it provided some type of protection. She gripped the keys tightly in one hand, and with the other, she felt around the floor of the car.
Just as she had expected, there was a bunch of glass shards. She grabbed the biggest one and put it in her other hand.
She really wished that she had her bronze dagger. It comforted her in a way, since she had fought with it for so long. She knew how to fight with that, even though she was good with other weapons too. That was a perk to being the daughter of the goddess of battle.
Annabeth peered over the dashboard. She could see Arachne creeping closer, her eight legs scurrying, her eyes looking in every direction for her. The feelers in her mouth were snapping. "Where are you, my sweet?" she asked.
Annabeth's breath caught in her throat. She would just hide there until she had to fight. She couldn't run now without getting caught. She was trapped.
"I can see you, my dear," cackled the weaver. "Your blonde hair is sticking up all over the place. You stick out like a sore thumb." And this was yet another time that Annabeth wished she was a brunette.
She could hear Arachne coming closer. Annabeth dove out of the car and began to hop away from her. But she could only hop so fast, and her legs hurt terribly from the fall. And, just because it wasn't hard enough, she was hopping uphill.
Annabeth tested her bad foot by putting weight on it. It didn't hurt as much as it had before, however long ago 'before' had been, so she began to hobble on it. She hissed when her foot twisted and she stumbled, but she recovered as quickly as she could and carried on.
Once she was over the hill, she turned around. Arachne was closer than she had thought. Maybe she thought watching Annabeth trying to run was fun, so she was going slowly, trying to make the chase last longer.
Finally she heard Arachne huff. "This is boring me. Your death will please me much more, and then I will make a magnificent tapestry to remember the moment. It will take me a while to find the right colors and supplies, but I will do it."
And with that, the spider lunged.
Annabeth screamed and parried the first blow with the glass, and then slashed at the spider. It wasn't working out that well. Annabeth was no match for her. The spider wasn't even hurt from the fall, and Annabeth could barely stand up.
Annabeth tried to block the spider again, but she got a good at Annabeth arm, and she dropped the keys. Annabeth managed to hit the spider with her next jab, and Arachne screamed ancient curses, and flung Annabeth back ten feet. She landed hard on the back of her neck, but used that as a chance to flip over her shoulder and land on her feet. She coughed once, but then felt more blood leak out of her wounds.
Arachne came at her again, but Annabeth jumped out of the way and landed on her hands and knees. She knew this surge of adrenanline wasn't going to last much longer. She stabbed at the monsters neck, but her arms swept Annabeth back, and she stumbled. The spider was fired up now. She slashed at Annabeth faster than she could see, and two of the blows connected to her ribs, and she jumped back in pain.
She clutched her side involuntarily. The blood was beginning to leak through, and she was feeling woozy.
She couldn't take it anymore. She collapsed to her knees. She couldn't do it. Percy was probably dead, and Annabeth was alone and hurt. "I'm sorry I let you down, everyone," she mumbled.
Then there was the sound of screeching tires and a loud engine. Annabeth's head perked up, and Arachne turned around, looking to find the source to the noise.
A Fiat went air born over a hill so that Annabeth could only see the underbody of the car and not the driver. It wasn't completely crushed, but it was dented all over the place. It slammed straight into Arachne and sent her flying away from Annabeth. But the driver didn't stop at Annabeth. He or she kept driving to where Arachne was now laying, legs up in the air.
"What is this?!" she screamed, and they were her famous last words. The car ran right over her, and then back up and ran over her again.
Annabeth couldn't stand to watch. She adverted her eyes to the ground and tried to block out the horrible crying, screaming, and gurgling noises. She could hear the sound of bones being crushed and blood splattering the ground. It was disgusting.
After what seemed like forever, the crunching sounds stopped, and the car turned around and drove over to Annabeth and parked next to her. She could see monster dust, blood, and guts all over the wheels. The smell almost made her sick.
The Fiat's door opened. And out of it stepped Percy.
As far as Annabeth could tell, he was unharmed. There was a small cut on his forehead, and scrapes all over his body, but it looked like Annabeth's plan had worked for him. He was smiling down at her, but then his eyebrows creased when he saw her wounds.
Immediately, he knelt down next to her. "Oh gods," he mumbled. "What happened to you?"
"A hard fall," she answered, wincing as he applied more pressure to her wound. "Percy, we don't have time for this. We need to get out of here before any more monsters come after us."
Percy nodded and kissed her on the cheek. "As far as I know, this whole place goes on forever. Above us, there's only darkness, and the only source of light is coming from where we came. It's only a small glow too, and it'll fade away soon. The area is like some sort of sick meadow. There are thorns on the ground, and debris everywhere, and it goes on for miles."
"Great," murmured Annabeth.
"Yeah, it's just great," groaned Percy.
He insisted on helping Annabeth get to the car. Once he made sure she had her seatbelt on, he got in too.
"Where are we going?" Annabeth asked.
"No idea," answered Percy. He smiled like the annoying Seaweed Brain he was. "I wasn't planning on coming to Tartarus, but if I had been, I would've made sure to go on Google Maps first to get directions."
"Shut up," chuckled Annabeth, but she regretted doing that. The movement of her shoulders when she laughed hurt.
"Right now, let's just get out of here and find someplace to take care of you." He leaned across the console and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "You will not get hurt on my watch, remember that. I'm going to take care of you, and those monsters are going to wish they'd never touched you."
Percy turned the key, and the car roared to life. He turned the headlights on, and Annabeth could see the trail of blood in front of the car. She gulped, and wondered what her friends were doing, and what time it was. It was hard to tell time when there was no sun, and the car's clock had been broken.
She already missed the sun. She didn't know when she would see the sun again, or if she actually would ever see the sun again.
And then they were off, driving a Fiat through the endless world of evil.
"And the monsters of the Mare Nostrum strike again," murmured Jason as he readied his sword.
He was exhausted. Utterly and completely fatigued. His body ached from the fight against the twin giants, and he still couldn't believe that Percy and Annabeth were gone.
He should've done more to save them. Even though the others said that he would've been sucked down too, he still could've tried. He was good at flying; maybe he could have dragged them out into a safer zone. I wish Coach Hedge would just give him a smack on the head for being an idiot.
Jason half blamed the statue. The Athena Parthenos stood tall on the deck of the Argo II. Athena's eyes seemed to bore into Jason's every time he looked at it, as if saying, Stupid Rome. Stupid Praetor. Stay out of my way before I kill you.
Jason knew that if statues could kill, this would be the one to stay away from. But then again, Terminus helped Percy kill Polybotes, so if Terminus could do that then who knows what the Athena Parthenos could do.
But if this Athena statue could do anything, it certainly wasn't helping them while they were being attacked by the Loch Ness Monster.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't the Loch Ness Monster, but it looked enough like it. It stood 50 feet out of the water, and Jason guessed that was only half of it. It's long, elaborate fins stuck out of the water behind it. The monster was teal blue and dark green, but the huge dorsal fin was purple and red.
Jason could see rows of razor sharp teeth in its mouth. It snapped and snarled at them, spewing water and acid from mouth and nostrils. It had about five tongues, one in its mouth, and two on each side of its neck. It looked like a mixture of some crazy dinosaur, a sea monster, and a hydra on steroids.
Jason decided to name it Nessie.
"Where's Percy when you need him?" grumbled Hazel, swinging her cavalry sword at one of the tongues as it came near her head. It darted just out of reach.
Jason felt a pang of jealousy, which he wasn't used to. Ever since he had heard of Percy, this feeling was becoming more and more consistent. At Camp Half-Blood, he was all everyone ever talked about. And once he had arrived at Camp Jupiter, all of his old friends were sticking with Percy, as if Jason were nothing anymore.
And Percy didn't even act like he was all that. He and Jason had been great fighting partners against the giants, but Jason couldn't quit remembering when he and Percy had tried to kill each other. It had been sick, but since then, Jason had kept wondering who the stronger demigod was.
Even Nico had said Percy was the most powerful demigod he knew. Jason had seen Percy in action, and he knew that he was super tough, but Jason kept thinking, What else can he do?
Jason absolutely hated the feeling. Especially since they were friends.
And then there was Nico. Nico frankly scared Jason a little bit. He couldn't completely trust the guy. He had been ling to both Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter for months about Jason and Percy.
But Jason wasn't going to trouble the kid now. He could see the haunted look in his eyes. Tartarus must've been really terrible. Now, Jason could only hope that Annabeth and Percy would survive. There was nothing he could do.
He hated the feeling of uselessness even more than jealousy.
Jason lunged to the side as one of the samurai tongues shot at him. He vaulted over it and slashed down, but he missed by a fraction of an inch. He cursed as he landed.
He glanced to the right. Piper was fighting with Katoptris instead of the horn of plenty. Apparently Hedge had given it back to her. It was good that she was fighting with it again, because Jason wasn't sure how the horn would come in handy in this situation. And charmspeak probably wouldn't do a thing.
Next to Piper was Frank, who had turned into cheetah. He was scratching and lunging at the monster anytime it came within reach.
Jason could hear Coach Hedge behind him. "You want some of this? I'll give you some of this. This goat is ma-aa-d!"
To his left, Hazel was still attacking in monsters, trying her best to hold two of the tongues at once. They slashed and cut at her, but she was doing a good job at holding them off. But like everyone else, when she tried to cut one of the off, she came too short.
Nico was fighting with his black iron sword. Jason remembered Nico from camp, and Nico had never been part of the camp games, so this was the first time Jason had seen him fight, and truth be told, he was better than Jason had expected.
For a fraction of a second, Jason was about to look around to try and find Percy and Annabeth. He shook his head and kept trying to hold off the monsters lunging head.
So where was Leo?
Jason hadn't seen Leo since he had gone down to the engine room about two hours ago, holding the Archimedes Sphere in both of his hands. "I want to learn more about how this works," he'd told them, his eye giddy with excitement. Jason had been afraid that he was going to light something on fire if he kept talking to him, he Jason had let him go on.
Jason assumed he was still down there, but he wished that Leo would just lose the Sphere for a few minutes and help them fight off the monster, but he couldn't just run down there and ask him, now could he?
He jumped up as the monster spit acid at his feet. The deck melted a little bit where the acid was, creating a hole. Jason side stepped the hole and switched his sword to his other hand for a minute.
They needed a plan, and Jason was fresh out of them.
Jason yelled a raised his sword into the air. A storm cloud formed above him and lightning streaked out of the sky. His friends hit the deck as an instinct. The lightning hit the sword and reflected off of it, hitting Nessie in one of its big blue eyes.
The monster shrieked a reeled back in pain. The tongues came closer to the body as it convulsed and spewed acid everywhere. The others rolled away and hid behind the mast until Nessie disappeared below the surface of the water. Then they got up and gazed over the railing like Jason, watching the water bubble below them.
Jason felt a little bit triumphant. At least he had done something right.
But that feeling went away when he saw the sea monsters head pop out of the water. It shrieked in rage into the air, and then focused its eyes right on Jason. He gulped. And Nessie lunged.
Jason probably would've been dinner if Hazel hadn't tackled him. Nessie's head sailed right over him, and then she pulled back and started flicking her razor sharp tongues at them again.
"Watch out, Jason," informed Hazel. He nodded. He couldn't afford to die now.
"I got this, you guys!" screamed a voice from below deck. That was Leo. He was fine, and he'd finally realized that they were in trouble.
"Glad you could join us," yelled Piper angrily, slashing at the tongue.
"Yeah, quit your complaining," he yelled back. He came out holding the Archimedes Sphere in both hands. He just never seemed to get rid of that thing now.
"Can you drop the ball?" asked Nico. "We really don't have time for science experiments." Frank glared at him in his cheetah form, and for a second, Jason was afraid Frank was going to forget about Nessie and attack Leo instead.
"It's not a science experiment!" Leo protested as he pressed buttons on the side of the sphere. "This thing is going to save your ungrateful butts."
He held the thing out in front of him and screamed, "TEAM LEO FOR THE WIN!" The sphere began to glow a dull blue color. Tiny legs sprouted from the equator, and the ball held itself up.
Like a Rubik's Cube, it shift and turned into a new pattern of ancient words and symbols that Jason couldn't understand. They turned until they were set up in a certain code. Or, Jason guessed that's what it was.
A ray of light shot out of the sphere and hit the monster in the neck. The monster shook, waving its head around in pain.
"What are you doing?" screamed Frank, who had turned back into a human.
"Just wait for it!" Leo ordered, smiling at the sphere. The beam was still coming out of it and still hitting Nessie. Jason couldn't see the effects. But then, the monster began to shrink rapidly.
How this ancient invention could shoot shrink rays out of it, Jason had no idea. But he wasn't about to complain.
"Get out of the way!" Leo yelled suddenly, sprinting forward in front of them, his hands cupped. The monster was so small now, only a forth of the size it had once been, and it was still shrinking.
None of them moved, they just watched in amazement. Soon enough, the Loch Ness Monster was was only the size of a person, and it was frozen in midair.
"Jason!" Leo yelled. "Turn it off!"
"There was finger holds on the sides. Fit your hands into it and push down until you hear a click. Hurry!"
Jason ran to the Archimedes Sphere, dodging the ray and going behind it. He put his hands on either side. To his surprise, Leo was right; there were places to put his hands. He put his hands on it and pushed as hard as he could, and the ray shut off almost immediately.
Jason looked up to see Leo catch Nessie in his hands, since it was only the size of a toy dinosaur. Leo laughed. "I think I'm going to keep it as a pet!" he announced.
They were all so mad at Leo, but they couldn't help but smile. "How'd you know how to do this?" asked Jason, holding the ball and staring at it.
"I've been trying to decipher the codes for a few hours," Leo said. "This thing might be the key to defeating Gaea. I only just realized it was a shrink ray, and that's only from one of the codes. You can probably make things grow too! I got to study it more."
"Well, I was going to scream a little bit, but I have to say, good job," Piper told him, smiling a bit.
"Why, thank you, Beauty Queen. Also, I was just thinking, what if we shrunk the Athena Parthenos?"
"What?" everyone asked at the same time.
"Hey, don't gang up on me. I'm just saying, when we go to Epirus, we can't just carry a giant statue with us! So why don't we shrink it and then make it bigger when we need it again?"
Jason looked around at the others. They looked uneasy, but Jason thought it sounded okay. He shrugged. "Give it a go."
Who knew you got radio reception in Tartarus?
Percy had been experimenting with the buttons on the consol of the car and accidently pressed the power button on the radio. Immediately, the car started blasting some song called Paralyzer (it was weird that they played the lyrics in English instead of Italian). It was so loud that Annabeth started screaming at Percy to turn it down, which he obviously did since she needed to sleep.
Once Annabeth was asleep again, Percy reached over and opened up the glove box. Thankfully, the car actually did have a First Aid kit, so Percy snatched that out of there and closed it. He didn't even need to watch where he was driving, because there was nothing in his way.
Tartarus was a barren land with black soil and many hills. There were no monsters roaming the land, and the light was disappearing rapidly. It was only a glow in the distance now, like a setting sun. For miles and miles, Percy could only see the same thing, which was nothing. There was no wall encasing them, no giant boulders, and no creepy gods glaring down at them.
Percy turned on the headlights so that he could see the nothing in front of him. After a few more minutes of alternative music (including Green Day and The Black Keys) and driving, he stopped the car. They were a ways away from where they had landed, so everything should've been safe… or safer than it had been.
He didn't like giving himself unnecessary headaches, but Percy wondered what happened when you killed a monster in Tartarus. Was Arachne really gone, or was she just hidden in some other part of the Underworld?
And where were all of the other monsters and people and Titans? What if Kronos was down here?
Percy stepped out of the car and went to Annabeth's side. The blood had slowed down a lot from what he could tell, and it was starting to clump up and scab. There was a cut on her cheek that ran from her hairline to her jaw. Her clothes were torn and her splint was gone.
Percy never took a First Aid class at camp; he'd only learned the basics (As in, put on a band-aid). He didn't think it was necessary. Just a little bit of nectar and bada-bing, bada-boom, he'd be good to go. Okay, maybe not like that, but something along those lines. And with the curse of Achilles, nothing could've really hurt him. Perhaps emotionally, but not physically.
Another reason to hate Hera…
Percy pushed the thought from his mind. Once Annabeth was well again, they could throw darts at the goddess.
Annabeth's face was a deep red color, like she was struggling to keep breathing. Sweat was beaded across her forehead.
Percy opened up the kit and studied the contents. There was white gauze, rubbing alcohol, medical tape, antibiotic cream, Spiderman band-aids, one of those fake-ice packs, and a bottle of Germ-X.
Percy took out the white gauze and unwrapped the seat cover from Annabeth's torso. She was still out cold. He could barely stand to look at the wound. Bile rose in his throat, but he swallowed it back down and wrapped the gauze around her as tight as he could. Annabeth hissed in her sleep.
He tied it off and rubbed some cream on the gash on her face. Her eyes fluttered open. "Percy?" she asked quietly, her voice hoarse.
"I'm here," he told her as he broke the ice pack. It turned cold in his hands. He set it on top of her forehead.
She began to protest, but then she relaxed back into her seat. "Okay, that feels nice," she admitted.
Percy chuckled inside, because he knew Annabeth would pop him in the mouth if he showed her the laughter.
"So," Percy started after a long moment of silence. "What's our plan?"
Annabeth gave him an incredulous look. "Our plan? You're asking me?"
"Well, you are the daughter of Athena," he pointed out.
"Oh yeah, such an honor!" She rolled her eyes. "The plan is to stay alive down in this hellhole. And apparently, we have to go meet Nico at the opposite side of the Doors of Death, if I heard correctly."
Percy nodded. "Do you have any idea where to go?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Are you going to make the girl with the rib poking through her skin drive?"
"No, no, I'm just saying-"
"Gods, Percy, you worry too much sometimes. I'll give you directions while you drive."
"No, Annabeth, you should rest. Wait, you don't have that old shield you made, do you?" Percy really liked that shield. It could show a map of where they were and where they needed to go. It had been a big help during the Titan War and some of the other quests they'd been on.
She shook her head no. "And to add to the depressing matter, my knife and laptop and all of that good stuff are gone."
Percy nodded. He had looked for them a little bit before finding the Fiat. Once he had regained consciousness after the fall, he'd immediately started looking for Annabeth. Remembering from the before the fall that she hadn't had her backpack anymore, he'd also searched for it too.
But then he'd seen the silver lining. A Fiat from the parking center that'd collapsed, completely fine and ready to be driven.
Well, not completely fine. Pieces of it were hanging everywhere. The windows on the left side were all smashed, and there was a long crack through the windshield. With dents everywhere, it wasn't in the best of shape.
Yet when Percy had gotten inside and turned the key (still in the ignition), it had roared to life, like saying, "I'm only alive for you, ungrateful demigods."
"Well, let's get a move on. The sooner we find these doors, the sooner we see the Argo II and the others."
"The sooner we find the doors, the sooner we fight Gaea," added Percy. "We need to get out of here in less than a month, or else we'll stand no chance."
"Thanks, Sergeant Sunshine, for making that clear," Annabeth said sarcastically.
"That's what I'm here for." Percy kissed Annabeth and then hopped in the car and turned it back on.
Percy soon learned that a black plain of nothing really helped people with ADHD. There was nothing to distract him except for the radio and Annabeth. But Annabeth had changed the station to classical or something (yawn), and then had fallen asleep once more, so Percy was alone to clear his thoughts.
But he had none. The only two things he was thinking were "Get Annabeth proper medical help or some nectar," and "It's so freaking dark!"
If the monster hadn't attacked Percy, he probably would have fallen asleep from boredom.
Percy heard the flapping before anything else. At first, it was so loud and awkward sounding that he thought there was an airplane flying over them. He even checked the sky roof to see if anything was above them, which didn't help since there were no lights.
He brushed it off. It wasn't like he'd ever been here before. Maybe that sound was common in Tartarus. But still, Percy couldn't shake off the feeling that they were being watched.
A few minutes later and the sound got even louder. There was nothing in front of him, but the lights only let him see about twenty yards in front of the car. All of the light from the sky was completely gone.
They were in perpetual nighttime. And Percy didn't like the feeling of it.
And then- WHAM!
He nearly had heart attack. Something large slammed into the windshield with Category 5 power. The crack got bigger. Percy's head slammed back into the seat, and Annabeth jerked awake with a scream. Her gray eyes were startled and frighten.
Percy tried to regain control of the car. The car was swerving around, and Percy didn't want to even think of what would happen if the car flipped.
A giant winged creature was slammed sideways against car and wasn't moving. The feathers were going out of either side of the car.
"BRAKE! BRAKE!" Annabeth screamed, but Percy was just staring at the brakes thing, Why aren't you stopping?
Finally, Percy realized that they weren't going to brake if his foot was still on the gas at 80 miles per hour. He jammed his other foot down on the brake, and they came to a screeching halt. Annabeth and Percy both were thrown forward. It was a miracle that the airbags didn't go off.
Percy jumped out of the car and brought out Riptide, which casted off a glow. He ran to the front of the car and faced the predator.
He heart dropped. The creature rolled off the hood of the car and crumpled to the ground in a bloody heap. The creature had a black coat and black feathers. It was a Pegasus that was spitting image of Blackjack.
Percy stood still. He wasn't sure whether to attack the Pegasus or flee while it was hurt.
He cleared his throat. "Uh, hello there. What're you doing in Tartarus?" He got more courage from speaking, so he stepped forward. The creature whined very softly.
Apparently, the winged horse wasn't as hurt as it seemed to be. Once Percy was in arms reach, his head snapped up and he lunged for Percy's hand with his teeth. He narrowly escaped getting his hand bit off.
Idiot mortal, your death will come soon enough, hissed the Pegasus. But it wasn't in the right voice. The voice was Gaea's. Nothing can hold us back. You and the girl will help me rise.
Percy bit down his anger. Gaea had possessed a wild Pegasus in attempt to kill them. "We'll never do anything to help you."
It's only a matter of time before you do something stupid that costs your life. And the sooner you and the girl give yourselves up, the less people and creatures will die in your wake.
And then his head fell back to ground, blood leaking from his wounds. He shuddered and jerked on the ground, until it became completely still. Percy held his breath and waited for any sign of life.
The creature didn't make another threat.
Sleep was the best medicine, right? Wrong.
After the fight against Nessie, Leo had tried to shrink the Athena Parthenos, and surprisingly, he'd succeeded. Now, the giant statue looked more like a Mythomagic action figure. Leo had picked it up only by its head, positive that it was going to blow him up if anything went wrong.
Now, the Athena Parthenos was with Leo 24/7, never leaving his sight. Nico had even caught Leo going to the bathroom with Nessie crawling on his head, the statue between his fingers, and the Archimedes Sphere at his feet like a soccer ball.
Nico, like the others, was exhausted from the fight, but he didn't want to go to sleep. Since he had nearly died from asphyxiation in his deep sleep, while being trapped in an overly large jar, he had promised himself that he would never sleep again.
So he went to his room, sat down on his bed, and stared at the wall.
For one entire hour.
After 65 minutes had passed, there was a knock on his door. Hazel popped her head inside. Half of her curly hair was frizzed up in the air, while the other side was straight and flat. She yawned. "Hey, have you slept any?"
"Yeah," Nico lied. He hated lying to her, but he didn't want her to worry.
Hazel glared at him. "I know your lying."
Nico rolled his eyes and groaned. "Fine, I'll go to sleep. What time is it?"
"About eight, and everyone else is already asleep except for Leo."
"Why don't you go annoy him, then?"
"Because I care more about you, and I was getting ready to go to him right after I made sure you were asleep, which you aren't!" She left without another word.
Nico threw his hands into the air and fell back onto the bed. He rubbed his face. Sometimes that girl was so annoying for her age. But Nico reckoned he could be just as annoying at time. He just wasn't the kind of person to show it.
Before Nico knew it, he'd fallen asleep.
That's when the dreams started.
At first, Nico was five years old, walking down the street holding his mother's hand. Bianca was skipping ahead of them in a skirt. Her hair tumbled down her shoulders, and her smile was wide. Nico wanted to cry. His sister had been so beautiful.
"Slow down, Bianca tesoro," Mother told her, her Italian accent thick. Bianca stopped skipping and waited for them to catch up. Maria di Angelo walked up to her and brushed some hair off of her forehead.
"You're all sweaty now," their mother complained. Bianca huffed, clearly annoyed, and Nico stifled a laugh.
His mom eyed him. "So you think that's funny?" Nico zipped his lips, trying to think about dead puppies, but his mother had already seen him. She bent down and started tickling him on the stomach. Nico was soon in a fit of giggles, and Bianca was laughing right alongside him.
Nico tumbled out of his mothers grasp and ran away. Bianca was next to him, shouting with pure glee. Their mother's laugh could be heard from thirty feet away.
When Nico turned around, Maria was smiling and fast walking after them. It wasn't ladylike to run down the streets. She clutched her bag in both hands and shook her head back and forth.
"Come on, Nico!" Bianca said, and he took off again.
The dream changed, and Nico was back as his thirteen almost fourteen self. This time, he was standing near a wrought iron gate, twenty feet tall and the deepest black imaginable.
The ceiling of the room he was in was so high that it seemed like they were under the nighttime sky. But Nico knew better. He had been here in his dreams before.
The House of Hades.
It never changed. Torches lined the walls, and Greek fire illuminated the walls green. Nico shivered in his shade form.
Nico knew that once he past the gates, there would be no return. Or that's what he guessed. Also written in iron at the top of the gate, the words Porta Nouita Reditum hung. It was Latin for Gate of No Return.
Ominous, but intriguing. The worst kind of thing for a demigod to find.
Somewhere beyond that Gate were the Doors of Death, and beyond that were Percy and Annabeth. Nico's hand fumbled with the lock on the gate, to which there was no key. And there was no way they could even climb over it. Maybe once they arrived, Jason could fly them over.
A deep voice chuckled throughout the cavern, a voice that Nico had never heard before. It rumbled and shook the ground so much that he was brought to his knees. It was like an earthquake was occurring.
Nico immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was Gaea. But the voice… it had been male.
It was another giant that they would have to take care of, but Nico had no clue who it was or what he could do. And this giant was inside the Gate of No Return, guarding the Doors of Death.
The cavern seemed to drop in temperature, and Nico watch his breath some out in big white puffs.
The ground shook again, and Nico stood on wobbly knees. He looked around, but he was the only soul in the room.
When he looked at the ceiling, it began to change color. A light erupted like the midnight sun, and coated the roof. Pictures formed. Nico saw the glowing blade of Riptide, the bright lights of a car, and most of all-blood.
The camera or whatever seemed to zoom in on the pools of blood on the ground. Then it moved up and showed a white faced terror-stricken Annabeth in the passenger seat of the car. She was in pain, obviously, and Nico would've bet his life that the pools of blood at come from her wounds.
But the camera didn't show any sign of Percy. Not a hint or a trace of the son of Poseidon. That wasn't good.
He heard the neigh of a horse, and then the hissing, sleepy voice of Gaea. Will die in your wake, she was saying.
The camera focused on Percy finally. He was staring down at a Pegasus in horror.
And then Nico woke up, cold sweat on his back. He blinked a few times and tried to clear his mind.
There was a knock on his door that scared him so much that he jumped to his feet while standing on the bed. He hit the ceiling.
Jason was staring at him, clearly tired. "Hey dude. I don't mean to wake you, but I've been guarding the ship since Leo went to sleep. Do you think you could take over for a little while?"
Nico jumped down and pretended it had never happened. "Yeah, sure. I can't sleep now anyway." He thought about telling Jason his dream. Annabeth would have been a better person to go to, since she would've known exactly what to do and who the giant was, but Jason was cool too.
But he couldn't. There was something about the way Jason looked at Nico that confused him. It was a look of distrust, like Jason thought Nico was spying the giants or Gaea. It aggravated him, but he didn't ask Jason why or why not. He would wait until the guy actually had the nerve to tell him that to his face.
He came to the conclusion that he would tell everyone at the same time once they were awake.
Jason's shoulders fell with relief. "Oh, thank the gods. I thought you were going to say no for a minute."
"Why would you think that?" grumbled Nico defensively.
"Um, no reason," Jason answered, and then he left Nico by himself.
Nico shrugged on his aviator jacket and stumbled out onto the deck. Stars were still out in the sky. It was really early morning.
He walked across the deck and slumped against the mast. More than anything, Nico wanted to be back at one of the camps, on dry land in a place he knew. He wanted his sword back with him. He wanted someone that he'd known longer than Jason or Hazel.
He needed Percy and Annabeth.
Running a hand through his dark hair, he thought back to when Percy, Annabeth, Thalia, and Grover had rescued him and his sister so long ago that it seemed as if it had never even happened.
He remembered the Titan War, and how he had betrayed Percy to get information about Maria.
Nico wouldn't let down these five demigods like he had let down so many others. He just wouldn't do something like that again.
Annabeth trusted Percy with a lot of things. She definitely trusted him with her life and protecting the both of them until she could get her stupid everything healed.
Driving? Not so much. Driving when he was terrified, angry, and scarred? Not at all.
Percy had driven Annabeth around on plenty of occasions. None of them had been particularly pleasant. When they had just started going out, Percy always insisted on driving them places if walking wasn't an option. Once, Percy had almost wrecked Paul's new Prius by pulling out into traffic at the wrong time.
Another time, they had been going to Coney Island, and while they were driving, Percy looked off the road and verged onto the opposite lane. With a scream, Annabeth had lunged across the consol and grabbed the wheel, safely steering them back onto their lane before any cars played whack-the-demigods with them
This time was another one of those cases.
Annabeth had seen everything at had happened from afar. She remembered the Pegasus hitting their car. And the voice of Gaea taunting both of them. And the Pegasus dying right in front of Percy.
It was like some type of terrible joke. Annabeth didn't say it aloud, but she knew that Gaea had possessed the Pegasus because it was a sacred animal of Poseidon. She wasn't sure if Percy had realized that, but he was grieving too much for her to say anything.
Anything that was in their way, Percy was seemingly required to hit it. He took his anger out on everything. The normal, stupid Seaweed Brain Percy had been left behind with the dead winged horse, and the fuming, no nonsense Percy had appeared. Annabeth rarely ever saw this side of Percy; no one really ever saw it. But this was just one of those times.
Percy was hardly paying attention anymore to where he was driving. The radio was off, and Annabeth was still in incredible pain. She winced ever so slightly so that Percy wouldn't notice.
"Is it still irritating you?"
Well, that's a stupid question! Annabeth wanted to scream at him. Of course it was still irritating him. But she bit her tongue. "Just a little bit," she answered, lightly pressing her right hand to her side and took his hand with her left.
He groaned. "We need to find some place to get medical attention." He was looking at her now, not even bothering to look at the road. "Maybe there are some friendly people that somehow got stuck down here in Tartarus that would be willing to help us." It was wishful thinking, but Annabeth smiled. They could only hope now.
Annabeth looked at the road, and gasped. "What?" asked Percy, still looking at her.
Annabeth pointed at the road, unable to form words from the momentary shock. Then she yelped, "BREAK!"
Still not bothering to look ahead, Percy slammed down on the breaks, and they stopped.
"What's going- Holy Poseidon!" he said in disbelief.
The barren wasteland and merged into a thriving jungle.